UA Gadsden Center to offer engineering labs


By Sarrah Peters

News Editor

The University of Alabama’s Gadsden Center held a media day on Tuesday, January 5, to showcase some of the facility’s new engineering laboratory equipment.

The University of Alabama provides distance learning for students to obtain mechanical engineering degrees. While most of the course work is completed and then submitted online, hands-on laboratory work must be completed as well. 

For distance learners, the labs used to mean traveling to the campus lab facility in Tuscaloosa. Now this spring, the UAGadsden Center will be able to provide the labs as well. A similar program has also been established in Dothan. 

The University of Alabama’s Gadsden Center is an ideal location to offer the lab’s because of how close it is to the Atlanta Hartsfield Airport. The mechanical engineering program has attracted distance learners from as far away as New Mexico and California, according to department head Clark Midkiff. 

During the media day, Dr. Mark Barkey, an engineering professor at the University of Alabama demonstrated the MTS Criterion Series 40 Material Test System, which is used to test the strength of substances frequently used in engineering projects. The purpose of the lab is to determine what materials can be safely used in engineering projects.

Barkey placed a short rod of steel in the machine, which then  vertically stretched the metal  until it hit its breaking point.

According to Barkey, it is important for the students to understand how different materials act under stress.

The labs will teach students about tension, torsion and bending for various materials. 

Barkey said that one experiment involved compressing aluminum cans. If the pressure is applied evenly, some cans hold about 200 pounds of pressure. 

The University of Alabama- Gadsden Center, located at 121 North First Street, will host an open house on Saturday, January 9 from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. Attendees will learn more about the center’s Mechanical Engineering program as well as the Higher Education Administration, Educational Leadership, Instructunal Leadership, Special Education, Elementary Education, Secondary Education, Library Science, Early College and New College LifeTrack programs. 

For more information, call 256-546-2886.

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